The symbolic language of the book of Revelation never fails to challenge the reader. Some of the symbology is quite clear. It is hard if not impossible to believe that God has a literal book, yet we believe that a divine record exists.
The believers at Sardis were told “I know your works” [Revelation 3:1] and what was known was not good, but there was still time to change. We know today how much information can be packed into infinitesimally small “chips” – humans have discovered more and more of the wonders built into creation.
They have also learnt to “tame” some of the greater wild beasts and learnt the intriguing ways of many animals; but how few humans have learnt to have a meaningful relationship with God
– look at the effort it needed for Job to achieve this.
In our heading we take some words from Revelation 20:12 about the opening of “the book of life.” We read, “the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done … and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life … he was thrown into the lake of fire.” [Revelation 20:12,15]
“Death and Hades” are also “thrown into the lake of fire” [Revelation 20:14] so it is evident that the “lake of fire” is a symbol of the complete and final removal of these things, Hades means ‘tombs, graves’. Revelation 21 says in plain language “death shall be no more” and “behold I make all things new” [Revelation 21:4,5] and we are given the ultimate situation in the future of the annihilation of all things that are ungodly, paradise is restored, a wonder of life unfolds which is far beyond our minds to grasp – it waits those who names are “found written in the book.”
Yet no one whose names are “found written” will have earned that privilege. Eternal life we are told, is a “gift” that will be the result of the genuineness of our faith. Paul makes this point several times, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works that no one may boast” [Ephesians 2:8,9]. Faith is the vital ingredient in our minds, faith that changes the way we think and therefore act – remembering what we read last week in Jude, “build yourselves up in your most holy faith … keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” [Jude 1:20,21] .